Do you know who Eugene Smith is? or Henri Cartier Bresson? They are of course legendary Magnum photographers who recorded some of the most iconic photos of the 20th century. Eugene also was a photographer for the venerable Life magazine. What else do they have in common? Along with other Life magazine photographers, supposedly they used a magic brew called the Harvey 777 to develop their films. I don’t know about you, but if 777 is good enough for HCB and Eugene Smith, I am sure to pay attention.
So what does this magic developer do? How about this sample from a throwaway roll that I used to “season” the developer? By “seasoned,” I mean that after some usage, I expect the developer to give even creamier highlight:
The web pics probably does not show it, but this photo has much better tonality and finer grain right out of the film without post processing than the previous half a dozen rolls I have done using Xtol. Since I have no timing figure for the film/developer/temperature combo, I just used a “reasonable” number, based on my own experience and some recommended timing for other films. This is pretty darn incredible. Pretty much perfect tonality on effectively a blind test.
Lets just say that Xtol is a competent developer, but 777 is a great developer.
Here is a picture talen with the Leica a few years back, developed with a seasoned 777 developer:
The highlight goes on forever and the shadow never seems to block up. I stopped using 777 because a) there seems to be a bit too much desposit on the 35mm film, showing up as dust spots, and b) I was moving to digital out of necessity. Now the second need is taken care by the Olympus E-3, I now have the option to shoot with B&W again, and with the larger negative size of the 6×7, I don’t expect the dust spots to be much of a problem.
So I have a fresh batch of 777 ready to be used again. This is, as they say, a very exciting “development.”